ANGOLA, Ind. (WFFT) -- Trine University took its annual Innovation Challenge Expo to the next level this year.
For the past six years, Trine has encouraged local high school students, as well as community members, to be entrepreneurial and pitch original business ideas to a panel of judges.
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For the first time on Feb. 19 audience members had the opportunity to hear the presentations along with the judges from the T. Furth Center for Performing Arts.
“The audience gets to see what these young people are doing which is really encouraging that the generations following all of us have outstanding ideas,” said Jason Blume, Trine Innovation 1 Executive Director.
“As a young inventor or entrepreneur you're not going to land that multi-million dollar idea on your first swing,” Blume said. “It helps these students understand that, ‘I have an idea I'm going to pitch it. I’m going to grow from it. Maybe it is a success, maybe it isn't but I’m going to continue to grow.’”
High school students competed for the top prize of $2,000 and a second-place prize of $1,000 to be applied towards developing their business idea.
Abigail Yeager and Mason Fitch took home the $2,000 for their pitch of Bounce Back.
“We looked at how my aunt behaved and how she rocked and noticed that the majority of the pressure came from her shoulders,” said Yeager. “We wanted to find something that doesn’t take up too much of the chair but could still help someone in rocking.”
The pair created a wedge-like device to reduce the strain that comes with sitting and rocking in a chair.
“Abigail went out and designed it, and I did the sewing and made a cover,” Fitch said. “From there it was just marketing it and testing it out.”
One victory isn’t enough for the Bounce Back creators.
“We have two more competitions that are pitch competitions, so we definitely have this to learn from going into them,” Yeager said. “It was a great time to try and experiment with different solutions trying to create something and be able to market it.”
The high-school business pitches were followed by technology pitches in the afternoon.
The Innovation Challenge Expo will continue on Friday, Feb. 21.
Both Trine University students and community members will get the chance to pitch business and technology ideas to the panel.
Business pitches will begin at 9:30 a.m. and technology pitches will begin following the award ceremony at noon.
“I think that getting young people open to entrepreneurship will help us grow as a local economy and keep Northeast Indiana strong,” Blume said.